National Shrimp day is right around the corner. It’s May 10. That’s some reason to celebrate.
There’s hardly a better food city—one that embraces seafood—as New Orleans. The old Creole cuisine is slathered with dishes featuring shrimp and crawfish.
When I think of traditional shrimp dishes from New Orleans, certainly Shrimp Creole pops in my mind. Tender shrimp in a mild tomato sauce redolent with peppers and onion. Served over rice, it’s hard to beat.
We often find shrimp in gumbo. Shrimp etouffée is popular. Then there’s barbecue shrimp. Nothing much better than a shrimp po-boy. We dare not leave out jambalaya or shrimp & grits. Grilled shrimp are popular. Shrimp Remoulade. The list goes on.
The dish I want to talk about is not that old. At least not in the sense of New Orleans fare. It was very popular at Jimmy’s. That’s Shrimp Victoria.
Legend has it that it was born at Brennan’s. That’s pretty good genes. In the 1950’s, it popped up on the menu at Commander’s Palace. Then you began to see it had other restaurants.
Caterers used it. You might see it alongside Grillades and Grits at brunch. Since Shrimp Victoria is easy to make at home, it became a family dish.
Aimee told me about it. Her mother made a powerful good Shrimp Creole. It always came to table in a heavy-covered silver dish to keep it warm.
At Brennan’s Shrimp Victoria is described like this—“Gulf shrimp sautéed in butter with fresh basil and fresh mushrooms served in a light cream sauce with parsley rice.” I say “is” because you can still order it there, even if it’s not on the menu. A solid Creole restaurant would make it for you.
Most recipes have a few key ingredients. Shrimp Victoria depends on quality shrimp. Its simplicity requires that. Sour cream. Then a fresh green herb. Basil is traditional. That’s it.
That’s how we made it at Jimmy’s. We used basil or thyme but not both. In our version, we added white wine in the cooking process. Some recipes don’t do that. We used sour cream in the sauce as well. Of course a touch of salt and pepper plus Tony’s seasoning went in.
Sliced mushrooms are a traditional ingredient and that’s the way you’ll find it at Brennan’s. We didn’t do that at Jimmy’s, because we had another dish using mushrooms next on the menu.
When I make Shrimp Victoria at home, I go for simple. It’s such a luscious dish. I try not to get in the way. There are usually no mushrooms in ours. I do have green onions and often a little garlic. I add a spoon of stock to the sauce. Basil is a perfect herb, but in moderation.
How do I proceed? Make rice and set is aside to stay warm. Jasmine is my choice for Victoria. I use peel and deveined shrimp with the tails off. David Fuller brings them straight from the coast.
I sauté green onions with the tops in butter until soft. Add a minced clove of garlic. (I don’t use a roux. Yikes.) A splash of white wine and stock go in. Then add basil, salt and pepper. I also sneak in a pinch of cayenne and a spoon of Worcestershire.
Mix it all together and add the shrimp. Sauté until barely done. They will continue to cook with residual heat. Remove from the heat and stir in the sour cream. That’s it.
At our house, we mix the rice in with the Victoria. Pure comfort on a plate. At Brennan’s, it served over parsley rice. It’s also at home with pasta like penne. You can substitute chicken with great success.
Try adding Shrimp Victoria to your household menu. You’ll be glad you did.
Jim Sikes is an Opelika resident; a food, wine and restaurant consultant; and a columnist for the Opelika-Auburn News. Contact him on Facebook at In the Kitchen with Chef Jim.